Marriage matters and cohabiting couples should not get same rights

One of Britain’s top family law experts has joined the debate on legal rights for cohabiting couples by saying campaigners for the changes were “naïve”.

High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge’s comments follows a second reading of a bill in the House of Lords that is designed to give greater legal protection to cohabitees.

He said any law designed to give special rights to just one section of the population would be a mistake.

He went on to criticise political supporters for a new law – including Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg – for “giving the impression that marriage doesn’t matter”.

Sir Paul heads the Marriage Foundation think-tank and is the first senior judge to come out against any cohabitation law.

He said: “I have had a Damascene conversion. I used to be quite in favour of some form of legal protection. But I have drawn away from a cohabitation law. It is a naive, lawyer-driven idea, and some leadership is needed.”

Last month we reported how the Cohabitation Rights Bill has now been passed to committee stage.

The proposed reforms would give cohabiting couples similar rights to those who are married and for the first time they would be allowed to apply for a financial settlement within two years of a relationship ending.

Lawyers are divided on this issue with Steve Kirwan from Resolution, the association of family lawyers, said: “Ultimately, the law needs to reflect the standards of modern society, and in the case of cohabitation, it does not.”